What is included in the physical exam to evaluate for delirium, dementia, and amnesia?

Updated: Sep 19, 2018
  • Author: Richard D Shin, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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Any patient who presents with altered mental status (AMS) needs a complete physical examination, with particular attention to general appearance, vital signs, hydration status, evidence of physical trauma, and neurologic signs. The delirious or obtunded patient should be evaluated for pupillary, funduscopic, and extraocular abnormalities; nuchal rigidity; thyroid enlargement; and heart murmurs or rhythm disturbances. Other clues include a pulmonary examination that reveals wheezing, rales, or absent breath sounds; an abdominal examination that reveals hepatic or splenic enlargement; or a cutaneous examination that shows rashes, icterus, petechiae, ecchymoses, track marks, or cellulitis. Cellulitis in elderly persons often is hidden under clothing, particularly pants and socks. Checking these areas in patients with diabetes is critical. Any serious infection can lead to acute mental status changes.

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